Personal update: my dad’s health

So, as a few of you know, my dad was diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer (glioma) in February. If you’re new/would like a refresher, here’s my post from that point. I wanted to update the people who have been thinking & praying for him here. It’s been a strange thing for me so far, because I live in Indiana and my parents live in Oregon and because, for all sorts of reasons, it’s been neither right nor practical for me to go out there for the duration.

He did radiation in the spring, which tired him out. Then he was on an oral chemo pill for a few months. I think at one point he may have decided to stop doing the chemo because it was really messing with his body and the oncologist said that if anything was going to help, the radiation probably would.

My parents and brother went to the east coast in August, to visit my maternal grandmother and my sister in Boston. They had a nice trip, from all accounts, and my dad went to Mystic Seaport twice, which is a place he’s always loved and that’s pretty special for him.

All this time, his speech never got back to what it once was. It got much better for a time–only slipping back into lost words when he was tired or more than usually messed up by treatments. But he, the word man who could be so eloquent, never really got that back.

In early October he called to say that his latest MRI showed the cancer is progressing–not coming back, glioma is in the connective tissues of the brain so it had never left. In February, the tumor was in his speech center, on the left side of his brain. My understanding is that it will begin to grow there again.

He has about six months. You can already hear the damage in his voice. I talked to him recently and he couldn’t remember the word bridge, mixed up my uncle and aunt’s names repeatedly. He knows what he’s trying to say, but he cannot say it.

They sent me a box for my birthday, with a few small presents and a card my dad wrote. It’s not incomprehensible, but it is not coherent. His handwriting is shaky. He cannot spell Happy Birthday. He addressed the card to my sister.

Most of the time it’s just there, the elephant in the room, so to speak. When I think about it for long, I get tired and sad, deeply sad in a way that’s hard to express. I think about the fact that he won’t be at my wedding, will never see grandchildren, when he’s wanted them for years. I think about the fact that it’s only in the last few months that our relationship has really healed, that I trust that he actually loves me, that he’s proud of me.

In Melina Marchetta’s words, “Give him back, you greedy God. I need him here.”

And yet, the world has not been kind to my dad. He’s brought a lot of suffering on himself and he’s suffered from the fallenness of our world. He mourns injustice and rails against greed and tyranny. He’s gotten angry and hurt people, and they have hurt him right back. And so I can’t help thinking, on some level, that it’s good for him to go, that finally he’ll be at peace, where there is no sickness, nor sorrow, nor sighing but life everlasting.

It’s right, and part of me knows that. But it still hurts and hurts.

I’m trying to figure out going to see them in December; I want to go while he’s still here. It’s scary because I don’t know what it will be like, because I haven’t had to deal with the reality of the situation in a tangible, physical way.

Particular points of prayer: my dad’s trying to decide where he should be buried–St. Herman’s monastery, or the parish of a priest friend in Massachusetts; my sister is trying to decide if she should take the semester off from school and go to Oregon; my brother is having a very tough time with all of this and is very depressed. And of course my mom is having to deal with all of this, making decisions and not falling apart.

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22 Comments

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22 responses to “Personal update: my dad’s health

  1. Thanks for the update and giving specific needs each member of your family has. I know it couldn’t have been easy to write (it was not anywhere near easy to read). I am praying for all of you. (I know I’m not close to you location wise, but if you need any sort of tangible help other than prayers let me know.)

  2. We don’t know each other, but please know you and your family will be in my thoughts.

  3. I’ll be praying for you and your family.

  4. I’m very sorry to read about your family’s struggles at this very hard time. I will keep you in my prayers and thoughts. Wishing you and your father strength and courage.

  5. Oh, I’m so sorry. You’ll be in my thoughts.

  6. Niphon

    Dear Maureen,
    I know how difficult it is to lose one’s father. And how it is to have a complicated relationship with him. The consolation that I had that is denied you was being around him as he was going. The consolation that you have that I did not was that you know that your father truly loves Jesus Christ.
    IWe love you and will pray for you. You are very dear to us.

  7. May God bless your family and give you peace and may the Holy Spirit guide you as you make difficult decisions.

  8. Nick Martin

    I’ve known your dad was sick but never known the specifics. Losing a parent hard to contemplate. I often worry about my father’s health as well. You have my support, as much of it as you need.

    • Maureen E

      Thank you Nick! I think you weren’t on FB back when things first happened, or I would have included you in the original message I sent out.

  9. ladygoat

    I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine how hard this is. Will continue to pray.

  10. I think about the fact that he won’t be at my wedding, will never see grandchildren, when he’s wanted them for years.

    This is still something that I think about even though it’s been years since my dad passed away. Your post had me in tears. I don’t want to say “I know what it’s like” because this kind of experience is different for every person even if the situations are similar but I just wanted to you to know that I empathize with you.

    Cancer is such a terrible, terrible disease and I’m frustrated that the world still hasn’t found a cure for it. I don’t think I have the words to assure you but please know that if you ever need to talk, you can reach out to me anytime. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  11. Mimi

    Oh my dear. Oh, oh, oh. Know you have my prayers and love. I am truly sorry, and I know that it isn’t easy. Tears from me too. Love

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